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February 28, 2010

USA v. Canada
Canada Wins 3-2 in Overtime

Okay, so it’s not 1980 v. The Red Army but this is as big as international hockey competition gets.

The US has been the surprise team of this tournament going 5-0 to this point and securing the number one seed. The team has pretty much been what GM Brian Burke and Coach Ron Wilson built it to be, big and strong, timely scoring, solid defense (which has gotten better as the games have gone on) and outstanding beyond belief goal tending. 60 more minutes of that and the US will have gold.

I stand by my thought following the Canada-Slovakia game…the 1st goal today is going to be big. Canada has to be a little tight coming out with the pressure of expectations, the home crowd and last Sunday's loss. Add all that to a piss poor 3rd period against Slovakia that almost cost them their shot at gold and this could be a fragile team. Get the first goal against them and the US might be able to put them away. Conversely, the US hasn't trailed all tourney. If Canada scores first, the building will go nuts and the US will have to make a comeback. I think the US is better suited to survive falling behind but I’d prefer they didn’t.

As I said, this isn’t 1980 and these aren’t the Soviets but in some ways today’s game is going to be nastier…fights between friends and family always are. Given that, here’s what I want the US to keep in mind….

If you prefer something a little more traditional, try this.

Bottom line...kick there ass this afternoon and buy ‘em a beer tonight.

If you missed it, check out the connection between Team USA and some very special American Heroes. In that vein, where it counts, Canada and the USA are on the same team (via Lex).

Now on to tmi3rd’s breakdown of the game.

So it's finally here.

One team, everyone expects to win. The other team, everyone figured would be okay but not great.

The roles are a bit reversed- the US is undefeated and quickly found its chemistry in the preliminary round. Canada, on the other hand, stumbled in the first round, and decided to change goaltenders midstream.

So what are we going to see? First of all, this will be a different Canada team than the one in the preliminary round. Here are the line combinations for Canada:

Line 1: Jarome Iginla- Sidney Crosby- Eric Staal
Line 2: Dany Heatley- Joe Thornton- Patrick Marleau
Line 3: Brenden Morrow- Ryan Getzlaf- Corey Perry
Line 4: Rick Nash- Jonathan Toews- Mike Richards
Patrice Bergeron is the 13th forward, primarily a penalty killer.

Morrow has come on of late, becoming a big body in front of the net on the Canadian power play. Iginla has benefited from being centered by Crosby, and Staal had a big goal against the US. The second line (known as the Sharks line- they all play for San Jose) has been the most consistently dangerous. The fourth line has a lot of scoring punch as well, and they definitely have better chemistry and flow than they did in the preliminary round.

The Canadian defense has been solid and chipped in a few timely goals as well. Scott Niedermayer and Shea Weber are the top Canadian defense pairing, followed by Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith (they play together in Chicago), and are rounded out by Chris Pronger and Drew Doughty. Dan Boyle is the 7th defenseman.

The one question mark for the Canadians is their goaltending, and that has arguably let them down in these Olympics. Martin Brodeur made some crucial errors against the US that cost him his spot, to be replaced by Roberto Luongo. Luongo has made some critical saves, but the bottom line is that against solid opposition, Canada has not kept pucks out of their own net. Against a Russian team in disarray, Luongo was beaten high to the glove side (usually a strong side for goalies) twice, and gave up a stoppable breakaway shot for the third Russian goal. Against Slovakia, they gave up two late goals before a Pavol Demitra shot hit the crossbar late.

Meanwhile, the US has been steady- they got their lines together against Canada, and their biggest tests to date came against Switzerland (twice) and Canada.

Line 1: Zach Parise- Paul Stastny- Jamie Langenbrunner
Line 2: Patrick Kane- Ryan Kesler- Bobby Ryan
Line 3: Ryan Malone- Joe Pavelski- Phil Kessel
Line 4: David Backes- Chris Drury- Dustin Brown
Ryan Callahan is the 13th forward.

These lines have been solid and consistent. The early issues were more related to defensive responsibility, and those seem largely to have been coached into form. Adding size to the first line with Langenbrunner definitely helped, although they haven't scored quite as readily as might have been preferred. The most scoring punch has come from the second and third line.

The defensive pairings have been Brian Rafalski and Ryan Suter as the first, Erik and Jack Johnson as the second, and Tim Gleason and Brooks Orpik as the third. The seventh defenseman is Ryan Whitney. Rafalski has been one of the highest-scoring players in these Olympics, and the US defense has quietly been very consistent, giving up six goals over five games. Of course, Canada had the most goals against them with three.

And, finally, Ryan Miller has carried the US in net. He's arguably been the best player in the tournament, and that will need to continue today. He's given up five goals over five games (the goal by Finland came against Tim Thomas), and stopped over forty shots against Canada.

Today's game will largely be dictated by who scores first. The team to score first has won all but two of the games in these Olympics. Also, the US has not trailed in any game in these Olympics. One would not wish to count on that today

The first ten minutes of the game will be crucial- anything the US can do to take the crowd out of the game will greatly affect the outcome. The quick goal against Canada took the crowd out of the game early a week ago, and that was a key to the game.

The Canadian offense has been predicated on traffic in front of the net, much like the US. Clearing out the center in front of the net- giving Ryan Miller clear view of the puck- will be a key defensively, and the same applies for Canada with Luongo.

Finally, there are always interesting matchups to watch- mine is Patrick Kane versus Roberto Luongo. Kane had six goals for Chicago against Vancouver's Luongo last year in the playoffs. Luongo does not have a large resume of huge games on his resume- this will either cement him as one of the great Canadian goaltenders or relegate him to to the ranks of Canadian also-rans.

Not even going to hazard a prediction on this one- I'm no good at that when I'm emotionally involved. Let's just say that I'd like to see Canada end their gold medal run in these Olympics at 13.

Oh and kudos to Brad Dayspring, spokesman for House Minority Whip (and noted Jew) Eric Cantor for correctly predicting Team USA's run to the gold.

digg this
posted by DrewM. at 03:00 PM

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